Nissan's new $70,000 GT-R high-performance coupe steals the show for 2009.
But bigger changes await Nissan in 2010 and 2011. The brand will venture into the sub-Versa vehicle segment in 2010 with the petite Cube and simultaneously hand off production of Titan full-sized pickups to competitor Chrysler LLC.
At the same time, Nissan's line will begin its foray into new powerplants that include European-made diesel engines and pure electrics.
Pure electric vehicle: The Nissan brand will begin marketing an electric vehicle to U.S. fleet customers in 2010 — the 2011 model year — for delivery services and utility companies. That will prepare Nissan for what CEO Carlos Ghosn says will be a full-fledged entry into consumer sales of electric vehicles in 2012.
Cube: Previously a Japan-only model, the small, five-seat Cube will appear on U.S. streets for the 2010 model year.
The five-door hatchback Scion-fighter will be re-engineered to support a slightly more powerful engine. Planners deemed the Japanese 1.3-liter base engine too anemic for U.S. customers and instead will use Nissan's newer 1.5-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine.
The front-wheel-drive Cube is small. At 154 inches long, it is almost two feet shorter than the Versa sedan. But it has the same B-platform and wheelbase length as the Versa. It is more than four inches taller than the Versa.
A stretched-wheelbase version of the Cube, dubbed Cube3, was introduced in Japan, offering seating for seven. It is not yet clear whether Nissan will include that version in its U.S. plans.
Versa: The model is up for a redesign for the 2011 model year.
Sentra: The key changes for the 2009 Sentra are a new trunk lid and speed-sensing door locks.
Altima: The standard equipment list is increased for the 2009 model with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Equipment now includes power door locks, power side mirrors and speed-sensing variable intermittent windshield wipers.
Maxima: The redesigned 2009 model features a muscular-looking exterior and an upscale interior. The new Maxima is shorter with a little less interior space than the Altima sedan. Both are developed on Nissan's D-platform. Designers widened the front and rear track and moved the fenders out to create a sportier stance. Sales began in June.
The Maxima comes exclusively with a continuously variable transmission; paddle shifters are available.
370Z: The redesigned Z car is planned as a 2010 model. Nissan's venerable two-passenger 350Z sports car will become the 370Z — the 3.5-liter V-6 will be dropped and replaced with a higher horsepower 3.7-liter engine. The car will debut in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Two changes are certain for the Z: It will be lighter, and it will carry more advanced transmissions.
GT-R: Long awaited by U.S. retailers, long desired by fans of Japanese street racers, the 2009 Nissan GT-R performance car went on sale a few weeks ago.
The low-slung, four-seat coupe has wowed reviewers with its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine that punches out 480 hp and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
But with a base sticker of $70,850, including dealer destination charges, Nissan has ultralow volume expectations for the GT-R. The target is just 2,500 units in the first 12 months, dropping off to about 1,500 a year after that.
Murano: The redesigned 2009 Murano went on sale earlier this year.
Rogue: The 2009 Rogue adds a fold-flat front passenger seat and speed-sensing door locks.
Xterra: The 2009 Xterra receives curtain side-impact airbags, as well as a freshened grille and front and rear fascias.
Pathfinder: Look for Nissan to develop the redesigned Pathfinder and the Patrol on the same vehicle platform. The Patrol SUV is sold outside North America. The plan is part of an effort to reduce vehicle platforms at Nissan and Renault and to share a greater number of components. The new models are expected for the 2012 model year.
Armada: Nissan is expected to discontinue the full-sized Armada SUV when it completes its current cycle in 2009 or early 2010.
Nissan has little choice. First, sales are disappointing. Second, the Armada comes from the same F-Alpha platform as the Titan, and Nissan plans to turn over Titan engineering and assembly to Chrysler LLC in 2010.
Frontier: Nissan's 2009 Frontier pickup receives a freshening.
Titan: Nissan will discontinue Titan assembly in 2010. Chrysler LLC will have responsibility for development and assembly beginning in 2011.
The 2012 Titan will be assembled at Chrysler's Saltillo, Mexico, Ram plant. While the Titan essentially will be a Dodge Ram pickup, riding on the Ram chassis, Nissan will design unique sheet metal for it and create a Nissan-only interior.
Expect more engine choices, including possibly a Cummins diesel and a six-cylinder from Chrysler.
Quest: Because of lackluster sales, the 2009 model year will be the last for the Quest minivan.
Minivan: The next Nissan minivan will be sourced from Japan and share a platform with the next-generation Japan-market Elgrand minivan.